Going back to school can be an exciting time for many students, but not all of them. There are several factors that can impact the mental health of adolescents.
“Any kind of change or transition can be a trigger for adolescents,” says Dr. Gali Gill, a licensed clinical psychologist and the clinical direct for Balance Treatment Center in San Luis Obispo and Calabasas, Calif.
Parents can help children by getting them into a routine, talking about anticipated transitions, and offering up healthy ways to cope such as writing or physical activity.
Your Child’s Well-being at Risk
Sleep can have a huge impact on mental health, especially for teenagers. Their brains are still developing, so experts recommend teens (ages 14-17) get an average of 8-10 hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, nearly one-third of teens don’t meet this minimum.
One way to help kids get enough sleep is limiting screen time before bed. Studies show that using electronic devices right before bedtime or in bed can negatively impact teens’ sleep cycles.
Parents should also pay attention to their children’s online interactions. While the internet allows kids’ access to a wealth of information, it also opens them up to a range of dangerous trends, including self-harm and bullying.
Both a lack of sleep and negative online habits can significantly increase your child’s stress levels, making it more difficult to manage added responsibilities as the school year starts.
Dr. Gill advises parents to monitor their child’s behavior, stress levels and coping mechanisms. Adolescents who are struggling should be encouraged to find healthy coping strategies such as joining a sport or participating in a club.
Finally, make sure that you have an open line of communication with the school. If the trigger happens there, you’ll need the administration to know how to best support your child.
“Understand that teachers are overwhelmed and they’re trying to help as much as they can,” Dr. Gill says. Ultimately, the parents need to take responsibility for equipping their children to cultivate healthy coping mechanisms. However, it never hurts to explore ways the school administration can help, especially if your child has experienced hardships such as anxiety or depression before.
Mental Health Matters
When responding to a child’s mental health issues, it’s best when parents intervene earlier. If you notice that your child has changed peer groups or withdrawn from friends, they may be dealing with a tough issue. While they do need to be independent, parents can certainly play a much-needed role in helping a child who is experiencing poor mental health.
“People can still have a really hard time having conversations about mental health,” Dr. Gill says. Knowing how to start a conversation can help.
Be genuine and let them know that the topic may be uncomfortable to discuss for the child, you, or both of you. Keep in mind school and community resources, such as counseling centers and peer groups, which can assist your child in dealing with a mental health issue such as anxiety or depression.
To learn more about mental health and students, contact Balance Treatment Center.
Balance Treatment Center’s programs include a fully licensed primary mental health residential center located in Calabasas and intensive outpatient programs in both Calabasas and San Luis Obispo. The team at Balance believes it’s important to open a dialogue and engage with family members of those suffering.
For more information, visit them online at BalanceTreatment.com or give them a call at (855) 414-8100.
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